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Making Lectures Come Alive

Site: Colorado Department of Education - LMS
Course: High Impact Instructional Strategies for Health Education
Book: Making Lectures Come Alive
Printed by: Guest user
Date: Thursday, 20 January 2022, 7:26 AM

1. Introduction

Making Lectures Come Alive

Video Introduction

The old way of teaching students through lecture, where student just sit and listen--is a very efficient way of delivering information.  What we want to do is combine the efficiency of learning through lecture with some techniques to promote maximum learning. We want lectures to become hands-on, interactive and learner-centered.  In this sense, here is what we mean:

  • Hands-on: Listeners are doing something
  • Interactive:  Listeners are talking to each other
  • Learner centered:  Focus is off of you and on the listeners

When preparing lectures, it is important to provide time before a lecture, during a lecture, and after a lecture to solidify a student’s learning.  This book provides some activities that will help change listeners into learners.

One of the first rules of lecture is to limit the presentation into chunks of ten to twenty minutes.  This is about all the brain can handle at a time. After each chunk of information, the brain needs time to process what it has learned.  The processing takes between 30 seconds to 4-5 minutes. As you are preparing your lectures, it is important to provide time to include these activities that are essential in helping your students retain the information.


Preventing Death by Lecture,  Sharon Bowman, 2008

Powerful Presentations, Deb Estes, 2017

Using Brain Science to Make Training Stick, Sharon Bowman, 2015

2. Before the Lecture Activities

These activities can be done prior to the lecture to engage students and identify  previous knowledge, or to prime students for the lecture. 

Experts Unite

A. Take 90 seconds and have students introduce themselves to the people they are sitting around.

B. Next, see if they can come up with 1 or 2 facts about the topic they already know.


A. Have a shout out with the whole class as to what they already know about the topic.

Take a Guess

A. In groups of 2-3, have students devise a list of 3-6 important things you think will be covered in the topic area.  When those questions or  topics are covered, they can circle them.

B. During the lecture students can also add facts they think are important.


A. When your presentation is complete, ask students which facts they think are the most important.

B. Have students look at the list and discuss the facts they had written down that were not mentioned or talked about.

Cheating Allowed

A. Hand out a worksheet ahead of time that has about 12 questions on your presentation you want students to learn.  Make sure they are hard enough.

B. Next, have students roam around the room and work with different people to try to get the answers--guesses are okay.

C.  As you give your lecture, have students circle the answers that are correct and change the ones that are wrong.


A. Discuss how close they were on the answers to the ones they got wrong and how many they got right.


A. Instead of listing questions, list facts, but leave out key words in each statement.  Learners try to fill in the missing words and change the ones that are incorrect.

B. Learners can use sources to look up the information instead of asking others.

Know, Wonder, Learned (KWL)

A. Share the goals, objectives, or standards that will be discussed during the class

B. Students create a chart with three columns. First column titled "What I Know", second column "What I Wonder", third column "What I learned". 

C. Students complete the first two columns prior to the lecture. 

D. Students complete the last column during the lecture. 

E. KWL's can be completed individually or as a class activity

Connect the dots

A. Share the goals, objectives, or standards that will be discussed during the class.

B. Have students brainstorm how a topic relates to them individually, with friends, in school, in the community, and/or in the world. Choose the levels that are most appropriate for the health topic and age of students.

Basic pre-test Questionnaire

A. Create a pre-test questionnaire to identify students previous knowledge and as a baseline for understanding, the pre-test can be used to guide instruction.  

The TQE Method

This protocol has students come up with their own Thoughts, lingering Questions, and Epiphanies from an assigned reading. Teachers who have used this method say it has generated some of the richest conversations they have ever heard from students.  

3. During the Lecture Activities

During the lecture, it is important to stop periodically and allow students the opportunity to process the learning.  Chunks should be between 10-15 minutes. These activities can be used during that time.

Nudge Your Neighbor

A. After about 10 - 15 of presentation time, have students find a neighbor and tell them the most important fact you have just heard.  Then find out which fact your neighbor  thinks is the most important.

B. When they are finished, continue on with your lecture.


A. This is similar to a pair share.  There are some variations for the topics students can discuss.

  • Share one thing you just learned;

  • Share one question you still have;

  •  State three things you know you didn’t know before;

  • Ask your neighbor a question about the information and see if your neighbor can answer it;

  • Tell your neighbor how you can use the new information you learned.

 Stand Up, Sit Down

A. After your 10 minute lecture, have students stand in groups of 3-5.  

B. Each person then tells one thing they learned from the presentation.

C.  After they share, they sit down.


A. Have the entire group stand up.  Have them raise their hands in the air.  Then ask a question about your presentation.  When they drop their hands at the same time, they all shout out their answers at once.

Micro-Macro Stretches

A. Explain to the group that micro stretches are a small part of the body--like a finger, toe,  mouth, eye, etc.  a macro stretch means moving a leg, arm, torso, etc.

B. Have the learners stand and model a micro or macro stretch.

C. While they are stretching, you verbally state one fact you covered in your lecture.

D. Next, call on another student to model a micro/macro stretch.  As everyone is performing the stretch, the student states another fact learned about the topic.

E. Continue on for 3-4 minutes.


A. Everyone stands and does the first movement to a jumping jack.  They can’t move to the next position until someone shouts out another fact they learned.

B. Learners stand and then run in place while telling their partners the important things they learned.

All Together Now

A. Create a list of bulleted points written on charts, slides, or bulletin boards.

B. Read the bulleted points out loud, then have the students repeat them.

C. This form of “choral reading” leads to longer retention of the information.


A. Use the following variations to mix it up:

  • Students with long/short hair read it out loud.

  • Students like to ski, bike, play an instrument, play a sport, read etc..

  • Students who are wearing red/blue/yellow, etc.

  • Students who are from other states.

  • Students born in the winter/summer.


A. After lecturing for 10 - 20 minutes, stop and ask the learners if they agree or disagree with the points you have just made.

B. They do this by using a signal.  For example, thumbs up if they agree; thumbs down if they don’t agree; and thumb sideways for undecided.


A. Clap for “yes”, and stomp for “no”.

B. Shout “Of course!” for yes, and “No way!” for no.

C. Have students touch a part of their body and repeat different facts.  Soon, they will associate the body part with the fact.

D. Hand out red and green index cards and have students raise their index card green "yes", red "no". The cards can also be used for agree, or disagree, Ok/No way, love it/hate it. 

Shout Out

A. After about 10 minutes of lecturing, ask someone to shout out a number between 5 and 10.

B. The whole group now needs to come up with that number of important facts, things to remember, or important concepts that were just talked about.

C. After they have shouted out the information, add anything they may have missed.

Pass That Question

A. After 10 minutes of lecturing, students write down a question they know the answer to that pertains to the topic on an index card.

B. Next, they pass the question to the right or left, and the person reads the questions and writes down the answer.

C. They now pass their answer back to the person who wrote the question, and they check the answer.  Let the person know if they got it right or wrong.


A. Instead of writing questions, write the answer.  The other person needs to write a question.

B. Have students write the questions on index cards and turn them in.  The teacher looks them over and addresses the most important questions asked by the students.

Think and Write

A. After about 10 minutes of lecture, have students take out a sheet of paper and have them jot down their reactions, ideas or questions for 1 minute.  

B. Have them share in partners or with the whole group.


A. Instead of writing, have them create a doodle that represents their new learning. doodles do not have to be pictures, but can also be shapes.

B. During writing or doodling, play quiet music.  The best is 60 - 80 beats per minute and no vocals.

C. Mind-mapping:  As you lecture, have students build a map using words and pictures as a form of note-taking.

 Multiple Choice

A. Give each student 4 pieces of colored paper.  (red is A, green is B, blue is C, and yellow’ is D).

B. Prepare multiple choice questions to go with your lecture.

C. After each chunk, reveal the questions and have students answer by holding up the appropriate color.

D. If learners make errors, help students make the corrections.

 Key Words

A. As you are lecturing, write single words on a chart pad.

B. Put no more than 7 words on a page.

C. After about 10 minutes, review the content that is triggered by each key word.


A. Create a handout that has the main ideas to be taught.

B. Leave out words or phrases.

C. Have students fill in the blanks or phrases as you lecture.


A. If you are dissecting a paragraph or short reading selection, have students use different shapes and colors to highlight important things to remember,

 Search and Learn

A. Instead of a lecture, put the content in printed form.

B. Provide students with a list of questions and have them search through the printed material to find the answers.


A. Give each group of students a different set of questions from a different part of the lecture.

B. As you give your lecture, call on the groups to help answer the questions when you get to their section of the lecture.

Nifty Notes

A. Before beginning you lecture, have students take out a sheet of paper and divide it into fourths.

B. Label the columns as follows:

        • A Book  (for important facts) 
        • A light bulb  (for new ideas)
        • A question mark (for questions they may have)
        • A running stick figure (for their action plans)

C. During the lecture, stop periodically and guide them to write things in each column.  This is called an “advanced organizer” 

Tie a Yellow Ribbon

A. Each learner gets a piece of ribbon about 6 inches in length

B. As you cover an important point, tell learners to tie a knot and remember the key point. Limit to 4-6 knots.

C. At the end of your lecture, have students partner up and repeat each point as they touch the knots.


A. Use a long piece of licorice and have students "eat a knot as they process the information.

Chat Station

4. After the Lecture Activities

After a lecture is over, students need to make connections in order to retain the information.  Closing activities are essential for students remembering what you have taught them. There are four points to remember.

    • Closing activities reconnect learners to each other and the topic.
    • They help learners focus on an action plan and what they plan to do with what they have learned.
    • They create a moment where learners can celebrate their new learning.
    • They give closure to a lecture which allows for higher retention of the information because of the fun they had.

Toss It Around

A. Have students gather in a circle and have a koosh ball or some other soft object.

B. Take turns throwing the object to each student.  When they catch the object, they need  to explain what they learned and what they plan to do with the information.    


One Legged Interview

A. Have students get into pairs.

B. One person is the interviewer, and asks the other person what they plan to do with the newly learned information.

C. The talker must stand on one leg while answering the question.

D. After about 30 seconds, they switch role


A. Instead of standing on one leg, have them touch their head or some other action.

Each One Teach One

A. This is a great activity for practicing skills.

B. Have student get into groups of 2-3.

C. They take turns teaching the newly learned skill or strategy to each other.

Sing Along

A. Students get into groups of 3-4.

B. They have 2 minutes to come up with a group cheer or song about the topic.

C. On the count of 3, they all shout out their cheer or song at the same time.


A. At the end of the lecture, have student get into groups.

B. Have the group come up with an example, analogy, or metaphor that can be used to reinforce the concepts or facts being taught.

C. Have the try to use personal experiences if possible.


A. Students take the new information and use a mnemonic strategy to create a tool to help them remember the information.  They may create an acrostic, acronym, rhyme, or  use a picture-visual.

5. Get Students Moving

These are one-minute oxygen producing motions that can be done before, during or after a lecture.

Follow the Leader, Sit, Stand, Stretch, and Speak:  

A. Have students stand and follow simple stretches that you do.  You can assign other students to lead or do it as table groups.

B. At table groups, have students follow a leader in some simple stretches.  During the stretch, the leader states important concepts they have learned.  Then they go around the group doing the same thing.

C. Students can also sit and stretch instead.

Bend, Breathe, Write:  

A. Students stand and then drop a pen or pencil on the floor.  As they bend to pick it up, they exhale forcefully.  As they stand up, they breathe in deeply.  Then they stretch as high as they can and pretend to write a key concept on the ceiling.

Walk and Talk:

A. Students walk around the room in groups of 2-3.  Play upbeat music to keep the pace active.  

B. While they are walking, they are talk about what they have learned. The teacher can have a list of guiding questions for the students to follow.  If there is time, they may also walk in the hall or outside.

Wall - Writing:

A. Have blank charts posted around the room.  

B. At different times before, during or after the lecture, tell students to stand and with a marker, write their responses on the chart.  Students may write at the same time on different spots on the chart. 

C. You can also have charts printed with pre-made questions at the top of each one and students can choose which one to go to, or they rotate through them.

Table - Writing:

A. This is a variation and much like a carousel activity.  Groups of students move from chart to chart, writing on each one.  When they return to their original chart, they can read what the others have written. 

  Here is a list of some suggestions:

    • Things I want to remember...
    • A question I still have...
    • A summary statement...
    • How do you plan to use the new information...
    • My next step is...
    • I also know that…
    • My opinion is...

Review Relay

A. Put students into groups of 5-7.  

B. On a chart pad have a topic word written vertically.  For example, if students are learning about “NUTRITION”, put that word on the chart. 

C. Give teams of students a few minutes to brainstorm an acrostic with words or phrases that go with the word.

D. On “go”, students from each team race to the chart and fill in the acrostic one at a time, passing the marker to each team member.  

E. The team that first completes their acrostic, wins.


If there is not much room, students can be seated at table groups and pass the chart around to each member.


A. As a whole group, students have to try to beat the clock with information they have learned.

C.They have one minute to come up with 15 - 20 statements--this depends on the complexity of the topic and information.

D. Students take turns standing and giving a statement.  They can not repeat what someone else has said. 

E. The class wins if they beat the clock.

6. Get Students Talking

Getting students talking before, during and after a lecture is key to processing and consolidating what was taught. Below are some specific activities that encourage student discussion, 


A. Have students think about a prompt. 

B. Students find a partner and share information about their thinking 

C. This can be done before, during, or after a lecture.


A. Foursomes:  Students work in pairs to find information from handouts or printed material.  Then they find and another pair and share what they have learned.

Standing Survey:  

A. These are good activities to do before or after a lecture.

B. Stand up and gather at least three facts on the topic from someone who is not sitting at your table.  Then go back to you table groups and report your findings.

C. Ask two people from other groups what they already know about the topic and report out to your table group.

Each Teach:  

This activity is good for practicing a skill.

A. Have students get into groups of 2-3

B. One person is the instructor, the others are the students.

C. Give the group a scenario related to a skill with steps.

D. The instructor demonstrates the skill and explains what is important to remember.

E. Switch to a new instructor with the same scenario or a new one.

Whip Around

A. In table groups, students are given a scenario or topic.  

B. They have 30 seconds to start talking.

C. At the end of 30 seconds, the next person picks up where the other person left off.

Make-a-date, Speed dial, Clock Partners:

A. Make an appointment with 12 different people one for each hour on the clock. (modify if you want fewer meetings), or on a phone speed dial with a different people,or on a numbered speed dial list.  

B. Be sure both students record the appointment on their clocks or phones. Only make the appointment if there is an open slot at that hour on both your clocks or speed dial spot.

C. Have a wild card. This is someone who doesn't have a date; they are to stand in front of the room. 

D. If your partner is not here you are the wild card. If everyone has a partner, the wild card joins the pair of his/her choice.

Neighbors. Say to students: "Turn to your neighbor and …

… Reflect on what I just said.

…Reflect on what I just said.

…Identify the key points from the last few minutes.

…Generate practical examples of ideas presented so far.

…Share a time when you've encountered examples of these ideas.

…Share any concerns you have regarding this topic.

…Decide which of the options I listed is the best and why

High Five Partners:

A. Have students meet with another student and high five them. This will be the students high five partner. 

B. Have students identify a low five, elbow bump, and toe touch partner.

7. Use Images

Using images and graphic organizers and learning maps can help students gain an understanding as to how concepts and skills are related.  

Say It with Pictures

At the end of a lecture segment, take 1-2 minutes to create a picture of what you have learned.


Fold a piece of paper in half.  On one side write notes, on the other side create a picture to go with your written notes.

Mental Metaphors

Post this sentence stem on the wall: 
This (concept) is like a (blank) because: (give three reasons)

For example:  Decision making is like ____ because…


Gadget Metaphor:  Give each table group a box of small gadgets. After the lecture, have them choose an object and relate it to their learning.

Story Starters

After a lecture segment, start a scenario:  Two students were walking home from school... 
Next, have table groups add a problem or challenge:  One of the students pulls out a vaping device and wants the other student to join in.
Continue the lecture, alternating between information and the scenario. For example, this lecture may deal with the steps to refusal skills.

Memory Maps/Graphic Organizers/Mind Maps

Pause during the lecture to let students fill in their maps.

An internet search can provide you with many examples.

8. Write More

Use writing and note taking strategies before during and after lectures to support student learning


When students have a piece of writing, give instructions on the writing to mark it up.

1. Highlight the main idea.
2. Circle three important facts.
3. Draw a box around the important concept.
4. Underline a word you want to remember.
5. Write a summary or opinion in the margin.

Quick Writes:  

These are great to begin and end a lecture to check for understanding.

• Think about what you learned on a post it and stick it on the door as you leave.
• Write two things you learned about this topic you did not know.
• Write the main idea of this lecture today.
• Write about how this new learning will make your life better.


• Give each student 3 index cards.

• Write these starters on each card:

Card 1: What?  What have you learned about the topic?
Card 2: So, What? Why is this information important to you?
Card 3: Now, What?  What is a way you can use the new information?

• During the lecture or unit, periodically give students time to fill in their cards.

Fill In The Blanks

• Before the lecture, have a worksheet created that has important words missing. 
• During the lecture, pause and give students time to fill in the missing words and concepts.

9. Keep it Short

1. Learning diminishes after 20 minutes of uninterrupted talking.

2. Check in with students periodically to assess their learning.

3. Need-to-Know vs Nice-to-Know

When constructing your lectures, be sure to only include the information that students have to have in order to perform the skill or change behavior.  You can cut out a lot of the other things that don’t lead to mastery.

4. Be sure to leave time to process the information they have learned.

5. Change it up!  Don’t always do the same activities.  The brain loves learning in different ways.